Coach Speak: Elijah Fuentes
Cardinal Hayes Highschool (Bronx, N.Y) has been generating promising prospects for quite some time, no matter the sport. Head football coach CJ O'Neil discusses the latest phenom to come out of the program and commit to Syracuse in defensive tackle Elijah Fuentes.
"Elijah is a special kid", said O'Neil. "You know, not a big talker, definitely a leader. A man of not many words, a lot of actions. Works his tail off, really just works his tail off. The kid is relentless whether it's in the weight room or doing fieldwork, you are not going to get a guy who'll outwork him, guarantee you that."
Coach O'Neil compared some of the other programs such as Boston College, Duke, and Wake Forrest who were in hot pursuit of Fuentes to his ultimate landing spot.
"Syracuse is Syracuse at the end of the day," said O'Neil."We said to him it is a great place, we see you there doing very well in the classroom, which is the number one thing we care about at Cardinal Hayes is that he is going to walk out of here (Syracuse), four, five years from now with a marketable degree."
When asked about the coaches that played a key role in Fuentes' decision to attend Syracuse, O'Neil talked about a number of guys but two stood out to him the most in Syracuse defensive backs coach Nick Monroe and Cardinal Hayes d-line coach Jay Figueroa.
"You have a guy there who recruits with them by the name of Nick Monroe", said O'Neil, "He does a tremendous job. He is legitimately, just a tenacious, calm, smart recruiter. Boston College may have had a shot, it comes back to Nick Monroe and the swag daddy did a great job."
Coach Figueroa tirelessly worked with Fuentes on refining his game, things that will help him excel at the next level.
"Jay has been instrumental in his development", said O'Neil, "I mean really truly instrumental, he just works, takes him on trips, they work non-stop. You know, I'm blessed to have great, young guys coaching with me."
As far as fitting in within the new scheme Syracuse is plugging-in this season (3-3-5 under coach Tony white), O'Neil is excited to watch Fuentes' athleticism jump off the screen and watch him grow over the next few years.
"He's an athletic guy, and that is really what the 3-3 (5) is, you know you put athletes in space, almost like the spread on offense and you are moving them", said O'Neil. "And when that kid is moving, he is moving. He is a lot, moving."
Coach O'Neil also raved about Fuentes's mom and her huge role in his powerful upbringing.
"He's got a really strong mom, who has done a great job raising a young man who has values and character," said O'Neil.
O'Neil believes Fuentes' ceiling is going to be through the roof as he starts developing his game physically and mentally at the next level.
"The sky is the limit for him. I think he's going to play a force, he has a great get off, very athletic, great body, tall, great hip bend. One thing he does really well, and this is a product of coach Jay and him working, is the use of his hands."